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Gaelic TV channel being reviewed

26 October 09 13:37 GMT

The impact of BBC Alba, the Gaelic television channel launched a year ago, is to be reviewed by the BBC Trust.

The trust, which represents the public in the broadcasting organisation, said the review will concentrate on two areas.

Firstly, whether the channel is achieving wide appeal to viewers beyond existing Gaelic speakers and helping to educate people in the language.

Secondly, whether to make BBC Alba available through Freeview.

Programmes are currently available on Sky, Freesat and live on the BBC iPlayer.

However to put the channel on Freeview would see radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as 5Live, Radio Scotland and the World Service dropping off Freeview between 1700 and 2300 every evening.

BBC Alba has had a weekly reach in Scotland of 5%, or 220,000 people.

Alasdair Morrison, chairman of MG Alba which runs the service with BBC Scotland, said it was the company's priority to make the channel accessible to all households in Scotland.

He said: "The viewers' appetite across Scotland for home-produced programmes available on BBC Alba has been extremely encouraging."

Mr Morrison added: "We are pleased that the BBC has found a mechanism to make BBC Alba available on Freeview.

"In order for this to occur the BBC Executive has proposed that the BBC's network radio stations would be removed from Freeview in Scotland in the evening only, during BBC Alba broadcast hours."

He said radio listeners would still be able to access the radio stations on FM, AM, DAB, satellite, cable and online.

In its first week, the channel attracted more than 600,000 viewers, according to research carried out by TNS System Three.

Viewers in the Highlands and Islands were the biggest consumers with one in four watching over the first week.

Other research carried out among Gaelic-speaking viewers shortly after its launch showed that 82% of Gaelic speakers with access to the service had watched the channel over the first week. Of those viewers, 87% watched more than two hours of BBC Alba.

The combined reach of BBC Alba and the BBC Alba programmes broadcast on BBC 2 was 860,000, 21% of the adult population of Scotland.

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